In Chapter 1, a distinction was made between error types and error forms. Error types are differentiated according to the performance levels at which they occur. Error forms, on the other hand, are pervasive varieties of fallibility that are evident at all performance levels. Their ubiquity indicates that they are rooted in universal processes that influence the entire spectrum of cognitive activities.
The view advanced in this chapter is that error forms are shaped primarily by two factors: similarity and frequency. These, in turn, have their origins in the automatic retrieval processes – similarity-matching and frequency-gambling – by which knowledge structures are located and their products delivered to consciousness (thoughts, words, images, etc.) or to the outside world (action, speech or gesture). It is also argued that the more cognitive operations are in some way underspecified, the more likely it is that error forms will be shaped by the frequency-gambling heuristic.
If the study of human error is to make a useful contribution to the safety and efficiency of hazardous technologies, it must be able to offer their designers and operators some workable generalizations regarding the information- handling properties of a system's human participants (see Card, Moran & Newell, 1983). This chapter explores the generality of one such approximation:
When cognitive operations are underspecified, they tend to default to contextually appropriate, high-frequency responses.
Exactly what information is missing from a sufficient specification, or which controlling agency fails to provide it, will vary with the nature of the cognitive activity being performed.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.